[DWJ] DWJ on University Challenge ... and what are people reading?

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at imperial.ac.uk
Wed Oct 19 08:23:11 EDT 2005

Hallie wrote: 
> So, hoping to hear what people have read recently and loved (or not), 

Gosh, let's see. The last Thursday Next Book- loved it, although it did
feel a bit plot-threads-yanked-into-place in one or two bits. I want to
read Fforde's newer detective one now. 
Smallbone, Deceased by Michael Gilbert- a mystery, recommended by Dave
Langford, (whose newest collection, The SEX Column And Other Misprints,
is very funny as always) was indeed very good. I've also just re-read a
couple of Sarah Caudwell's mysteries, Thus Was Adonis Murdered and The
Shortest Way to Hades, and adored them again. Mysteries of manners. Cut
to the Quick by Kate Ross, a Regency mystery, was good, but I preferred
Point of Honour, which is an alternate-history Regency (the Queen as
Regent instead of the Prince). The Game, by Laurie King, in which
Sherlock Holmes and his wife hunt for a missing Kimball O'Hara (from
Kipling's Kim) was fun, but apparently the rest of the series aren't as

I got a big pile of books in America in the summer and still haven't
quite finished it- I've got a Judith Merkle Riley and Barbara
Kingsolver's second volume of essays to go- but I can't remember all the
ones that were in the pile to begin with. Most of them were
recommendations from the list, though! Very much liked Sean Stewart's
Nobody's Son, once I got past the yokel dialect. There was a discussion
on someone's blog recently about sub-genres that people really love- not
just vampire romance, but vampire-romance-with-cooking, or whatever- I
think "after the happily-ever-after" is one of mine, and this was a nice
Mirabile and Hellspark by Janet Kagan. These were excellent. I
particularly liked Mirabile, being a lapsed geneticist myself. Very
unfair that these are out of print. A couple of Melissa Scotts- also
good, also OOP. In The Garden of Iden- I've now read all the Company
novels, and am waiting impatiently for Baker to finish the next one. 
Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series. Brilliant. I loved watching them
use the scientific method to pin down magic.
A Fistful Of Sky, by Nina Hoffman. Quite a routine plot- non-mage in a
magic family finds her powers- but well-written. I really liked the
power she gets, the setting (modern USA), and the family.
Couldn't really get into The Lastborn of Elvinwood or Moonwise; I think
I'm poetic-writing-blind, or something. I may finish them sometime.

I finally read The Disposessed, for my book group, and of course it's
good. One of Le Guin's slightly more axe-grinding books, but not too
much (the subtitle is An Ambiguous Utopia). Wonderful worldbuilding and
sense of place, wonderful characters. 

Waiting for; Scholar of Magics to come out in paperback already; Diane
Duane to stop doing interesting projects like the Ring Cycle for TV and
finish Door into Starlight (she made an offhand comment somewhere that
she is still working on it, so I can't even give up hope and forget
about it!)

> Up soon are _Ptolemy's Gate_, after a very nice interview in The 
> Guardian with Jonathan Stroud, which convinced me I wanted to read 
> this 

Ooh, yes, me too.

I've suddenly got right back into watching and listening to comedy, so I
haven't been reading as much as usual. I don't really watch and listen
entirely to British (oh, and one Irish and one American) comedy, but
that is what I've been wallowing in with great pleasure lately. 
(Firefly DVDs have sold entirely out everywhere since Serenity came out,
which is a pain. I guess everyone was being like me and waiting to see
if they liked the film before buying a series they'd never seen. And
everyone did like the film.)
I highly recommend the following comedy: (by the way, the rest of the
message is just me going on and on and *on* about comedy, and we all
know how personal that is; you can listen to the radio shows online
free, if you want, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/, and work out if you
trust my judgement, or just hit "next message". Oh, there's a footnote
that I think is quite amusing, but it does depend on your knowing a
sketch best known for Monty Python's rendition of it, so if you're not
already into old British comedy it won't make much sense. Still, it all
kills a few seconds, eh?)

Stand-up: the usual suspects- Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Stewart Lee, Jo
Brand, Rich Hall, Eddie Izzard, Ardal O'Hanlon, Victoria Wood, Jack Dee.
Ross Noble's new DVD, Sonic Waffle, actually made me cry with laughter
and pause it so I could get my breath back. Also anyone fairly near
London needs to go and see the Comedy Store Players, at the Comedy Store
Wednesday and Sunday nights; virtuoso improv.

>From radio: I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (CDs widely available, currently
being repeated on BBC 7 online, new series starts mid-November on Radio
4, I went to a recording for it last night and it was brilliant- Jack
Dee was very good as a guest); Round the Horne (from the 60s, being
repeated on BBC7, CDs available); Jeremy Hardy Speaks To the Nation
(from the 90s, being repeated on BBC7, CDs available); I'm Sorry I'll
Read That Again (from the 60s, being repeated on BBC7); Lionel Nimrod's
Inexplicable World (from the 90s, the series is just about to end on
BBC7); The Consultants, which has just started a new series on Radio 4
(available online) is supposed to be very good, but I haven't listened
to it yet. 

>From TV: The Mighty Boosh (DVD of series 1 available); surreal, silly,
very funny. Took me a couple of episodes to get into their world, but I
now have withdrawal symptoms. Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last The
1948 Show; from the 60s, DVDs have finally come out. I slightly prefer
The 1948 Show, which has the inestimable blessing of John Cleese, but Do
Not Adjust has the Bonzo Dog Band, so it's all good, really. (The 1948
Show has the original version of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch. I love
all the iterations of this, although the one from We Know Where You
Live, the Amnesty benefit concert/comedy show, with Vic Reeves, Eddie
Izzard and Alan Rickman among the Yorkshiremen, all of them trying to
make each other laugh, has a special place in my brain. I've tried to
dislodge it, but no.... [1]) How To Irritate People and the Marty
Feldman Show are also pretty good. 
The Goodies- by turns very, very funny, and embarrassingly of its time,
but then Monty Python has dated a bit too. Drop The Dead Donkey- from
the 90s, very well-observed, DVDs up to series 4 have come out. The
Young Ones and Not The Nine O'Clock News- not that these belong together
all that much, except in being part of the Alternative explosion in the
80s that took over from the Oxbridge Mafia and in being funny. The Young
Ones particularly is just bursting with inventiveness and energy, and
poo jokes. Red Dwarf, Father Ted, Blackadder, Python, Have I Got News
For You; have all been out on DVD for a while and don't really need
recommending, but I'm going to anyway, because they really are as good
as they're supposed to be :-) 
Have just watched some old videos of the live shows of the Fast Show and
Vic Reeves' Big Night Out, and been reminded of how good they were and
that I should get the series. And if Channel 4 deigned to produce Paul
Merton's show or Whose Line Is It Anyway on DVD, or the BBC brought out
A Bit of Fry and Laurie or The Mary Whitehouse Experience, I'd snap them
up too. 


[1] "We used to perform t'sketch on a great, big, drafty stage, tiny
audience of 20,000..."
"Well, our audience were only 1,500, and we were knackered from doing
t'rest of t'show, no swanning on just for one sketch..."
"At least you were out in t'balmy fresh air of t'Hollywood Bowl. We were
in t'stuffy theatre, no proper rehearsal time..."
"Theatre! Luxury! We were in t'tiny BBC studio, worked our brains to
t'bone writing Python and did we get any thanks, I think not,
poor-quality old-fashioned colour videotape recording it was..."
"Colour! Ooh, we used to dream of doing t'sketch in colour!"
[Etc, back to Ug, Ug, Ug and Ug who used to get eaten by a sabre-toothed
tiger before they could get the first line out. And that were on
t'wireless, mind you, none of this modern telly lark...]

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